This article discusses two photographic artworks that challenge popular narratives of failed or achieved maternal femininity. My readings of Lena Simic’s Contemplation Time: a document of maternity leave (2007-8) and Eti Wade’s Jocasta (2008) are informed by interviews with six women in their first year of motherhood. I am interested in the ways in which these artworks articulate complex maternal relations and their potential to be used to increase the wellbeing of first-time mothers. The article includes discussion of the research method and proposes ‘empathic affirmation’ as an extension to previous work on interviewing mothers. An overriding concern has been to write the embodied experience of mothers back into readings of artworks that speak in their name. With this in mind the responses of my participants provide the backbone to my analysis of the artworks and why they matter to discourses of maternal subjectivity.